7 LGBT executives on what diversity means to them

Seven visionaries explain their personal definitions of diversity that may serve as inspiration and fodder for your own.

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While accepting and celebrating employees for who they are should be a year-round priority for all companies, June is the ‘official’ time to discuss areas of improvement for diversity efforts. As the international month of Pride, many professionals host workshops, throw parties, walk in parades and transform their normal logo to feature all colors of the rainbow.

Though these gestures are often appreciated, executives within the LGBTQ community challenge leaders to think more holistically about their practices and the way they promote inclusion within the office, to their customers and as part of their brand messaging. Here, seven visionaries explain their personal definitions of diversity that may serve as inspiration and fodder for your own:


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“It’s about people, power and process.”

From: Muneer Panjwani, head of corporate development at The Trevor Project. Panjwani identifies as an Indian-American Muslim immigrant gay man.

“Diversity is about centering people in the conversation about inclusion and belonging. While quantitative data about who is and isn’t represented is important, asking why they need to be represented centers the conversation around the unique benefits a diverse staff brings to the workplace. Considering the benefits a diverse team brings to an organization certainly has bottom-line benefits, it’s also important to recognize that no one is asking ‘what benefits do straight or cis-gender people bring to the workplace?’ Centering this conversation around people means understanding who has power and who doesn’t. Lastly, having a specific, well-resourced, and established a process to identify and solve diversity challenges is important. There is nothing more demoralizing in the workplace than using tactics to delay or de-prioritize addressing diversity. Diversity should get the same priority as when the internet goes down in the office.”

“Diversity includes background, perspective, opinion, and identifiers.”

From: Daryn Carp, host at Bravo and Oxygen, co-host at ‘Unplugged With Eraldo & Daryn’ on the CW and Andy Cohen’s assistant. Carp identifies as a creative and outspoken lesbian.

“To me, diversity within the workplace means diversity in background, perspective, opinion, and identifiers. It’s great to be around like-minded people and people who have similar backgrounds to you, but that alone can stifle an environment by never hearing and therefore not understanding other perspectives. So much of our early life revolves around growing up with people just like us due to income status, where we live, who our parents are, and so on. Even in college, we tend to all relate because we chose the same college, and therefore, might be more similar than different. But in the workforce, it is important to interact with and have relationships with people from all walks of life. It expands our own perspectives and ergo, our own minds.”

“It’s an honest reflection of community.”

From: Hellen Hale, an Interior Designer at Studio 11 Design. Hale identifies as bisexual.

“Diversity in the workplace should be an honest reflection of the community surrounding it. Team members should be chosen because they not only perform the tasks assigned to them but fit seamlessly into the company culture. It’s also about embracing our differences and learning from each other — we all know something someone else doesn’t. Diversity is not trying to meet a quota ‘just because’, or being overly-inclusive so that it is ostracizing to someone. If you over-celebrate someone’s differences, it can feel contrived or dishonest, and more about patting your own self on the back for being inclusive.”

“It’s about being welcoming.”

From: Suzie Yorke, founder of Love Good Fats. Yorke identifies as a lesbian and female entrepreneur.

“To me, diversity means welcoming and proactively seeking a variety of opinions and ideas from people of all walks of life. It means giving people a seat at the table so they can be heard. I seek out that diversity every day by personally engaging with my customers via social media and hearing their feedback. We live diversity as a company via our team and the value we give to their voice. I aim to represent those diverse experiences when I am creating new products, sitting in a boardroom, meeting with buyers or talking to investors. The great thing about working in the food industry is that food doesn’t discriminate, and neither will we.”

“It’s about acknowledging our differences.”

From: Stephanie Boone, founder and CEO of Wondercide. Boone identifies as a lesbian.

“For us, diversity means we acknowledge the differences between one another – our employees and our customers — and celebrate the tangible and intangible value these differences bring to our culture and community that we fondly refer to as our ‘pack’. We believe everyone, everywhere deserves equality no matter their age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, abilities or disabilities, and that when we can unite around our differences great creativity, true connection, and inspired innovation are the outcome.”

“It refers to both visible and invisible identities.”

From: Jennifer Brown, founder president and CEO of Jennifer Brown Consulting. Brown identifies as a lesbian, cisgender woman.

“Diversity within a workplace refers to all of the various identities — both visible and invisible — that either make up or should make up the composition of the workforce. Diversity is often talked about in terms of counting heads, which means remaining hypervigilant about who is represented at what levels and who is not represented — especially where this is out of sync with the marketplace. We need to have representation of different ethnicities that reflect our population at large at all levels of a company. We need to have LGBTQ-identified people who feel comfortable enough to bring who they are to work every day representing the percentage of the population who identify as LGBTQ.”

“It means having multiple perspectives.”

From: Fran Dunaway, CEO and founder of TomboyX. Dunaway identifies as a lesbian.

“I think that having multiple perspectives is important and critical for success. Differing opinions, backgrounds, interests, beliefs are essential to consider. Diversity opens the door for collaboration and input that pushes the boundaries in a way that doesn’t happen when everyone is the same. The world is a melting pot of identities, ethnicities, and experiences. This impacts the lens through which we see the world. True progress stalls when ideals are homogenized into righteousness. Conversation and curiosity stimulate new ideas that lead us down new and exciting paths.”

Lindsay Tigar|is a seasoned lifestyle and travel writer